Monday, May 1, 2017

That Seductive Grace Period

Those of us who have gone down the path of compulsive or disordered eating and running only to fall off the deep end know there can be a grace period. I talk about this in detail in my book, so I won't go to great lengths to explain it here. Suffice to say that you can temporarily run well while living an unhealthy lifestyle. Hell, in my case, I set records, won a bunch of races and became one of the top mountain runners in the country while battling a severe eating disorder. I say battling knowing full well that for several years, I had no intention of changing my compulsive ways while I was on top.

Part of me understood that feeding my addiction couldn't possibly lead to longevity in the sport, but, like so many people in the throes of an illness, I justified my crazy actions, in my case by pointing out that I was still running well. I was aware enough to make sure I didn't encourage others to be as thin as I was. I knew I was sick. It was obvious. Sure, I can look back and say, "Wow, I ran some amazing times and races," but I can also look back and imagine how much better I would have been had I not been so lost in the disorder, the compulsions and the strict eating habits. I can say without a doubt that I did it all wrong, but I am glad I never encouraged others to engage in unhealthy behavior. I never focused on my weight when talking about my running, because I had at least some experience with running better when I was heavier. I was a stronger runner at a more sensible weight; there's no doubt about that. I was just too afraid to move away from the idiotic idea that I had to be thin, not necessarily in order to run well, but because it was some kind of strange and very powerful internal driving force, a very detrimental one. I had competing and conflicting goals: one to be thin, the other to run well.

If I'm honest, though, I was aware on some level that what I was doing wasn't going to ultimately help me reach my full potential as an athlete. People who had gone down a similar path did too and even tried to warn me. I felt like I couldn't help it. When I was confronted, I came up with all kinds of rationalizations, excuses and bizarre explanations about how I was different. I tried to convince myself and others I would keep running and winning despite what people said. That was before my body and even my mind, to a certain extent, starting suffering from the long-term effects of not eating right. An ugly truth about eating disorders that people don't like to discuss is the aftermath, the issues that people face even after years of recovery. It starts slowly, an injury here, another one there, tightness or weakness that isn't appropriate for someone so young, more races avoided or missed, and less stellar performances exhibited. My solution was to bump up the distance, but that ultimately made things worse. I could place in a 15K, but I knew my low 35 and 36-minute 10K days were gone. I knew I was no longer close to the true elite field, even in the mountains. It took time to get there, but I knew what was happening as my times suffered; I just couldn't figure out how to switch course.

In the end, I let the compulsions win. The results were disastrous. My experiences taught me a lot, though, and I had to change in order to save myself. My goals now are to take care of myself and be more present. I am accountable now, but my mind can still get caught up in the fears and lead me down the frantic thought path if I'm not careful. During times of increased stress or injury, I have to be very careful about how I'm treating myself and thinking about myself. My friend, Tonia, wrote this piece after her recent hip surgery. It's a beautiful post about how important it is to love and respect ourselves, especially during the hard times we face, something I'm still learning as I enter another rocky period with severe nerve and foot pain, a complication after the manipulation on my right foot. Pain changes how you view yourself and makes you question who you are. It's an uncomfortable position to be in. I'm struggling lately, not just because of the discomfort, which can be unbearable, but because I'm forced to think about my identity and rediscover who I am without something that helps keep me grounded and feeling OK in the world. That's not an easy position to be in, but when my body won't cooperate, I have no choice but to adapt.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


April has never been the best month of the year for me. Last year was one of the absolute worst when my sweet little Romo died. I'm far from over that and can't think about it too much without getting lost in the grief. Maybe it's something I will never fully get over, but we all do our best to keep moving forward. This year has been up and down, better than last year but still with its challenges.

I still think of April as my second birthday, a time when I came out of a long fight with a terrible illness. I've now met two more people who had similar experiences with viral meningitis as I did. One gentleman contracted the virus from a feral kitten. I was bitten by a spider. The other lady I met didn't have a specific incident; she just ended up with it. All three of us were misdiagnosed and sent home, and all of us ended up back in the hospital for an extended stay shortly after being discharged. I don't know if this says more about the difficulty of diagnosing the illness or our healthcare system in general, but it doesn't seem right.

I'm not happy to know that others suffered like I did, but I was glad to know that I wasn't the only one who had lingering symptoms. I mean, I'm glad someone can relate. Two years after the worst of it, I finally felt like I was more solidly on my feet, but even now, I know that I'm not the same person I was before the spider bite. No, I don't mean I don a cape and fight crime like Spiderman now; I just mean there are some issues that occasionally pop up with my body and brain, issues I'm sure are related to the effects of the virus. Now that I know I'm not alone in this, it feels a little less scary.

Last year, I bought myself a bike to celebrate what I think of as a birthday of sorts, the time of year I recovered after nearly dying from meningitis. Since I had foot surgery recently this year and put a lot of cash into some car repairs, I think I'm going to keep any celebrations limited to splurges on small-scale things like cheese or chocolate, but April will always be a time of great reflection for me.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Collateral Damage

For a few years now, I have been debating whether or not to write about an issue in my life. It's not my issue per se, but it affects me a great deal, especially more recently. I've tried to ignore it or take the high road by simply sitting back and doing nothing, but that became increasingly harder to do in the last few weeks. I'm putting this out there because I'm tired. The strange and escalating online behavior of an individual has gone past shocking to worrying me, and I'm really sick of saying nothing about it and pretending it's OK. It's not. When I write this all out, I assume it will look like the shenanigans of kids in middle school, but when this stuff happens in the adult world, it's unsettling.

In 2009, I *met* a woman through a mutual friend on Facebook. It was actually my boyfriend, Kevin, who introduced us. He had started coaching her sometime in October of that year, and, despite my initial first impression and a sense of uneasiness, we friended each other the following month. This woman and I had a few online chats and occasionally commented on each other's social media posts. Though she confided in me about a few of the issues she was facing at the time, I felt the need to keep my guard up and never really opened up to her, something I'm glad about now. By the summer of the following year, she seemed to want to keep her distance, and I was fine with that. From what I could gather, she was preoccupied with a guy. Our communications ended, and the only real tie that linked us together was Kevin. You can read his recap of events here.

Sometime in 2010, Kevin asked if I had been saying things about him to this woman or to anyone else. Apparently, she told him that I and one of Kevin's ex-girlfriends had been saying some unkind things about him. Both his ex and I denied having said anything, and this was enough for me to realize his client was not someone with whom I wanted to socialize. I quickly blocked her on Facebook and other social media websites. I assumed I would never have to deal with any of these kinds of antics from her again. Out of sight, out of mind seemed appropriate, in theory anyway. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Long before she and Kevin began having issues, I found out that she had tried to convince Kevin to lock me out of the house where we were staying. It's true that Kevin and I had our ups and downs and were in a down spell at the time, but I still find it odd that someone I hardly knew and still hardly know, and someone I had made every effort to be kind to, would suggest something like this. He didn't, of course. When she and Kevin had their first falling out, I wasn't surprised, and when she came back to him later and requested that he coach her once more, I and many of his friends gently warned him that it might not be in his best interest to take her on as a client again. When their second falling out occurred, it also wasn't a surprise, but what happened after that was, at least the severity of it was. When things seemed more than a little bit out of hand, at least from my perspective, I tried to encourage Kevin to go to the police, but he didn't think the police could really do anything and didn't think things would continue. They did.

Things turned ugly after the second falling out, and she took many opportunities to complain about Kevin online, sometimes anonymously on Let's Run and sometimes on her blog or on social media. When he finally responded, she went off the deep end to the point where Kevin ended up in a hearing after she filed a petition for a restraining order that was filled with something other than facts. The hearing was bizarre. Kevin purchased a recording of it that's now in my hands. To me, it seemed like the judge was aware that not everything was adding up, and toward the end of the proceedings, he said that he felt Kevin's former client was doing and saying these things in an effort to make Kevin look like a bad person. He also said that Kevin could take her to court for defamation of character and for lack of payment, but it was a hearing only and didn't address those kinds of issues. At one point, the judge turned to her and said, "I suggest that you do not post anything publicly about Mr. Beck online..." He added that he felt it was best that the two of them leave each other alone. Her response was to go home and immediately post something publicly online about Kevin, and he is no longer quiet about pointing out her inconsistencies.

Since then, she has continued to take both direct and indirect swipes at Kevin; me; our coauthor, Brad; many of Kevin's friends; anyone living, coaching or training in Boulder; people with eating disorders (how we are stupid); and at Boulder in general. Oh, what a crummy place it is to be. I'm pretty sure Kevin is no longer going to let any of her attacks slide, which is understandable considering nothing seems to work to stop her, not even a judge suggesting she do just that.

Some of the more hurtful comments she has said about me include stating outright that I haven't eaten since high school, that I have "huge problems", that I'm a "legendary anorexic" who is in no position to coach, that I enable or even go on drinking benders with Kevin (I barely touch alcohol!) and, the worst, that I'm basically using my mom, counting on her dying, so that I can inherit her house. This last one is bogus, of course, but because I'm very close to my mom and love her dearly, it bothers me more than the others that show more about who she is as a person than about who I am. People who know me know the kind of person I am. I'm not worried about that. I'm very fortunate to have some incredible people in my life. There have been other mean-spirited remarks about me, but the gist is always the same, that I'm washed up, a failure, don't have a good job, that I'm a victim of domestic abuse etc.

I've never hidden the fact that I struggled with an eating disorder that nearly killed me, more so in the past, but I have put it out there in an effort to help others and let people know that it's OK to struggle. We are not our illnesses. She can rip on that all she wants, but to bring my very kind, very able-bodied, older mother into things is hitting pretty damn low. She tried to claim that Kevin somehow manipulated or edited these tweets, but I got them directly from her twitter feed:

Kimberly Duclos boulder runner
This isn't directed at me, but my mother and I are collateral damage.

Kimberly Duclos twitter
More of the same kinds of tweets by Kimberly Duclos.

Though something like the tweet below, as absurd as it is, isn't directed at me in particular, it's directed at runners who have some type of an eating disorder, and I fall or have fallen into this category, as do many others, I would guess, especially if you take a broad definition of eating disorders and don't limit it to anorexia, bulimia and binge eating:

Kimberly S Duclos Boulder
Another odd remark from Kim Duclos.

I don't know. This is something I will never quite understand. In general, I try very hard to be a decent person. I'm not perfect, but I do my best to be helpful, kind, compassionate and considerate. In this case, I'm really not sure how to handle it. Doing nothing and looking the other way hasn't helped. If anything, things have gotten worse.

It's possible that there is some hurt under all these outbursts. I think it's misdirected at me, but I know that finding your true identity as a runner can be difficult. It might be that the falling out with Kevin, a coach who helped her reach some pretty lofty goals in running, caused some conflict in her mind. The coach-athlete relationship, good or bad, can be a hard one to let go of, but this is a lot of speculation on my part. I don't know enough about the situation to make any solid conclusions. There may be deeper issues at play, too. All I know is that I want all this bullshit to stop. Whatever grudge she has against him or, for whatever unknown reason, me, I just want her to go live her life and be as happy as she claims to be in between venomous bouts of tweeting or posting my name on Let's Run, Twitter or Facebook. There's no need to constantly and relentlessly drag other people into this fight. These kinds of attacks are so unnecessary and so very cruel. I may be expanding the scope of conflict by posting this, but my intent is to stop pretending like this shit doesn't affect me. It does. It's upsetting and weird and even a little bit scary. 

And obviously, this is my perspective. Again, I don't know this woman and have no idea why I am so often the brunt of her online remarks or even why Kevin is. All I know is that I want out of this situation and really hope something will eventually help her stop lashing out and move on with her life.  

Monday, April 3, 2017

Quick Update

I have now had 9.5 surgeries on my feet. I think I'll stop there.

The cyst removal went very well. I was surprised to see how big that sucker was. It had started to attach itself to four places, so my doctor tied off each of those. Instead of being the size of a pea, it was more like the size of a pecan. My doctor likes to show me these things. I got to see my severed nerve last time. It's interesting. It's funny that I had no trouble watching surgery on my hand, but I don't know if I would want to see someone cutting into my feet.

For my right foot, the doctor numbed it up (that's way more painful than it sounds) and manipulated my toe to break up the scar tissue. At one point, there was a very loud POP! that sounded like someone snapping a fresh carrot in half. "Did you hear that?" my doctor asked. How could I not! Apparently, that noise was the sound of something good happening. After a bit more manipulation, my toe went from looking like it was trying to escape from my foot to resting in a more natural position. It's not perfect, but it's much, much better than it was.

I had a slight reaction to the pain meds, so I used them very sparingly. The second day, I had a fever and spent the day in bed. I thought I would try some yoga, but I ended up lying down on my yoga mat instead of actually doing much. Oh well, I made the effort. It didn't happen. Today I got my bandages changed and was able to move around more.

Things are looking good. It will be a week before I get the stitches out, but I got the go ahead to do some workouts.

I need a shower, but I have to keep my foot dry. Somehow a shower with one foot outside of the tub is never quite as satisfying, but it's better than nothing.

Monday, March 20, 2017

That Only Took Six Years

I haven't been very good about keeping my resolution to write in this blog, but I have been writing at least a little bit elsewhere. For the most part, the writing I'm doing isn't structured. I'm blogging in my cheese review blog, doing a few Yelp reviews and working on a few side projects. Everything with the book I coauthored with Brad and Kevin is a go. It's scheduled to come out in June. You can preorder a copy of "Young Runners at the Top" here:

Overall, things are going relatively well, especially in the work and volunteering departments. Running wise, I was happy to earn a post surgery (x8) PR in a little time trial I did. The last time I ran anywhere close to the time I did (20:25 up NCAR road from the little library on Table Mesa) was in 2011. I didn't time it exactly in 2011, though. I estimated the final outcome based on a glance at my watch before I started and again after I finished, which isn't as accurate as actually starting and stopping a stopwatch, but the two times are close, both under 21 minutes, which is good for me running solo in a slight headwind up a big hill in too much clothing for the nice weather we had over the weekend. I still seem to struggle in the last half of the run. It's more uphill the second half, of course, but that's where I should shine. Instead, I feel like the monkey jumps on my back every time, even when I tell myself, "I'm going to attack the last hill this time." I pass Vassar Drive on the right-hand side in good shape, and GULP! it's still a long way to go from there.

There are times I can't tell if it's more of a heart valve leak situation or a lack of fitness situation when my breathing gets off kilter. My solution so far has been to back off slightly and ease back into a faster pace when I feel more on top of things. For the last five minutes of this timed run, though, all I was doing was trying to put on foot in front of the other and move in any kind of a forward motion. Toward the end, I thought anything under 21 minutes had slipped away, so I was pleased to see my watch at 20:25 when I got to the top.

Apparently, I ran hard, because a woman told me I looked pale and asked if I was OK when I stopped. Another lady on a bike coming up the road asked if I was OK when I decided to retie my shoe on my cooldown run down the big hill. I thanked them both for their concern and their kindness. I don't think either was interested in my petite accomplishment, so I kept that to myself. Everyone was super nice that day, and it made me smile and put an extra spring in my step. I love days like that, even if they end in cramps and an unexpected shedding of my female parts in what has become a bimonthly affair. Big picture. 

I attribute my improvement, even if it's slight, to working with some really great physical therapists in town. Three, in particular, have given me big pieces of the puzzle, keys to the mystery that is my wonky body. That, and I'm actually doing the therapy, the homework part of it, which isn't easy. Sometimes these exercises and stretches haunt me, but I'm working it all out. Running is something that's starting to feel better, and it's almost like a long-lost friend has reentered my life. I'm far from 100 percent, though. My hips still click and catch. When the band (possibly the iliopsoas?) on my right side snaps and moves in the middle of a run, it's unsettling, downright scary even, but it's more noisy and uncomfortable than outright painful. The left is silent but occasionally shoots pain and still feels weak. My feet are also a bit of a mess and often painful, and my endometriosis still rears its ugly head. But there are times I feel really fucking good, all things considered. Within the confines of what my body can handle at this time, I'm doing well. That's why this next surgery is much harder to take than those I have faced in the past when I was in too much pain to do much of anything. 

Yes, I'm headed in for my 9th foot surgery at the end of the month. I have a cyst in my left foot. It's unpleasant. I now run (and walk) with a big, felt doughnut around the bump to keep the pressure off, which helps. Still, the thing sits on the top of my foot looking like an alien waiting to burst through the skin. It's distressing and often painful. I'm also considering one last surgery on the right foot to see if the doc can get my second toe back in alignment. Right now, the joint is dislocated. I keep thinking an amputation would solve this problem and know there are people who have had this done, but there's a chance that lengthening the top tendon once more could provide some relief. I'm hesitant, though. It's a big surgery with a long recovery time and not a guarantee that the toe would slide back into a better position. It's a lot to think about.

And some good news regarding the fire west of Boulder that occurred on Sunday. Though none of the neighborhoods in the city had to evacuate and only one small area near 4th and Mapleton was on notice, areas west of us did evacuate but were allowed back today. Fortunately, no structures were lost. Unfortunately, 76 acres burned:

Monday, February 27, 2017

NEDAW - National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

A few weeks ago, I was at the Humane Society volunteering at the vet clinic when one of the cats let out a blood-curdling scream. It sounded eerily human or maybe more like something that once was human. It did not sound feline in the least. This little guy let out such a wail that the entire staff and volunteer team stopped, all of us with our jaws on the floor, and stared in disbelief. He did so because one of the vet techs merely opened the door to his kennel. She hadn't even touched him. Everything was fine. The resident cat whisperer was brought in, and she was able to safely get him out for some testing. She wore extra padded and extraordinarily long oven mitt-like gloves in order to do so, but the cat's wail was louder than his bite. He actually didn't make any attempt to bite anyone.

The work volunteers do at the vet clinic is sometimes hard, sometimes kinda gross, sometimes physical, and sometimes serious, but overall, it's incredibly rewarding. It can even be fun, but it does take a lot of attention and care. Time usually flies by when I'm there. My volunteer days are full with a work shift right after I leave the Humane Society, but I wouldn't change anything about those long days. I'm getting better at figuring out easy ways to get a somewhat healthy lunch in me those days since I usually end up eating on my way to volunteer, during my shift, or on my way to work.

Why am I bringing this up when the title of this post is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week? I wanted to explain what recovery means to me. Work, volunteering, living, running and being social were all things I struggled with in the throes of my eating disorder. Even during the first five years of recovery, I had a hard time being consistently reliable and facing the world. I held jobs, volunteered, and showed up most of the time, but I frequently called in sick and my mind was often a million miles away, focused on my body, food, weight, or how I felt in my clothes. In fact, when I was volunteering at a different vet clinic during the first year of recovery, I found it very difficult to be fully engaged. I was so rarely in the moment. That slowly changed the longer I committed to recovery.

A lady conducting a research study on eating disorders in which I participated told me that this is often the case. The common response when asked the question, "what was different in terms of working before and after recovering?" was the feeling of being more grounded, being more productive, and feeling more present. There's a shift that takes place, and the attention that was once put on counting calories, obsessing about appearance and worrying about food is freed up to be placed in new areas: work, play, learning, relationships, giving back to the community, helping others, etc.

People often believe that you reach a point in recovery where you feel like you have arrived. Diane Israel suggests that recovery is more an ever evolving process, usually with peaks and valleys. Even now, I look to see where I can improve. The issues I struggle with these days are more what "normal" people deal with: eating more fruits and vegetables or a generally healthier diet, getting enough sleep, finding the right balance of exercise and rest etc. A good recovery exercise is to describe what recovery means to you. I know I have a tendency to be too strict and too hard on myself, so I work on finding ways I can relax the rules I have set in place for myself. It's always good to ask yourself if what you are doing is being driven by compulsion or by the desire to be healthy.

This week, there are so many people promoting their websites, blogs, books, and FB pages in response to NEDAW. It can get overwhelming sifting through what is actually helpful and what is not when it comes to recovery. I have found that one of the best ways to help people is to listen. What does a person struggling with an eating disorder need? What is he or she trying to say through the disorder? Some people don't want help or are in denial, but those who reach out are usually willing to explore the deeper issues.

Telling my story was the first step. It gave me a platform and allowed me to explore my own issues on a deeper level and also provided a way for me to let others know that there is a way to a better life. More importantly, though, it let other people struggling know that they are not alone. Answers were missing when I was unwell, and the outlook on recovery was bleak. Things have changed a lot since then. There is more hope around recovery. I want to offer more, though. With so many ways to reach people through social media, a lot of misinformation can be spread. I'm doing what I can to address specific issues on this blog, but I'm also trying to find other ways to help those in need and those who are willing to accept it. Fortunately, I'm not the only one offering guidance and support.

The last few blog posts I wrote addressed images on social media websites. I'm so glad I'm not alone in my opinions and can talk to others about it. Today, Carmen Cool mentioned "before & after" images in reference to NEDAW on her Facebook page. It got me thinking about images in general again. I think in this field, it's always important to think about how images can affect and even possibly trigger others. More importantly, before & after images end up supporting the false idea that once a given weight is achieved, everything will be fine, discounting the emotional and mental aspects of these illnesses and the deeper issues at play. Probably the best response to this controversy came when someone brought up alcoholics and pointed out how bizarre it would be to see someone who is sober posting images of how drunk she used to be in comparison. What purpose would this serve? None, absolutely none. We don't need to see where you were in order to understand it and to understand the underlying issues related to the illness.

Here is one response to before & after images that I feel is worth noting:

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Not Done Yet

I've been having an internal debate about how involved I want to be in addressing what I feel are dangerous trends in society. The other day I saw a preview for a documentary about Karen Carpenter. It made me think about how lucky I am to be alive. Though I never took the heart-damaging medications she took, our lowest weight was about the same. Sometimes it seems like sheer luck that I survived. More and more people seem to be struggling with eating disorders.

At the risk of beating a dead horse...

With the recent Lady Gaga's belly controversy, I decided I would allow myself one last outburst over the whole Instagram mess. Keep in mind that I'm not actually triggered these days, but I mentor people who are. Every day I see people fighting for their lives. Last year, five people associated with members of one support group lost their battle. We just lost someone in the group this month, too, so it's no surprise that I get fired up when I see people carelessly posting their insecurities and afflictions on social media for all to see and absorb.

Let me see if I can explain things in a way that people will understand because one middle-aged lady suggested I was "body shaming" when I called her out on her potentially damaging and highly triggering posts, even though I never once mentioned a single word about the woman's body or her appearance. As a friend suggested, this is like being called a bully for expressing concern when someone posts loads of images of herself sloppy drunk and in compromising positions or passed out on the floor with captions about how great and fun it is to drink to excess every night. No, I'm not actually the problem. Yes, I could sit back and say nothing, but that was starting to feel wrong. Complacency is its own injustice.

What upsets me more than the images, many of which are bad enough, are the captions that go along with them. In one particular case, the woman has revealed her BMI, her caloric intake, and her exercise level. It doesn't take a genius to see that this is a train wreck in the making, but the almost constant self-criticism and self-absorption are unbearable. That's what I see as the most harmful to others. Imagine a young girl looking at the image of someone who is underweight and then reading the caption about her round belly. How could anyone think this is a good idea? Another woman thinks it's OK to post images of her seven identical non-fat lunches in Tupperware containers. That's not as terrible, but OCD much? How is this healthy and balanced and enjoyable? One of the worst things I have seen is someone suggesting how to hide curves in images for people who have none. I have said my piece, but it hasn't resolved anything.

Here is why I have trouble getting past all this. Take a look at these statistics:

  • At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. 
  • Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result of an eating disorder.
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
When people flaunt an illness that kills so many individuals, I can't sit back and act like it's OK. It's never OK to subtly or blatantly encourage others to obsess over weight, body, and food. All this does is continue to promote an unhealthy standard. I can't stand the thought of anyone encouraging others to strive for thinness by counting calories, weighing out every morsel of food, obsessing about exercise, and focusing on every self-perceived flaw, and then publicly complaining about or making hateful comments about body parts, her own or someone else's. When I see this kind of content and the unwell people who encourage it, I see it as a slap in the face of those who promote body positivity, health, and wellness. 

Those who make comments about bellies on natural bodies, untoned abs on fit athletes and cellulite on thin thighs have disordered thinking and promote a sick culture. Those who make naive comments about how stupid it is for people to have eating disorders are no better. Eating disorders are a very rational response to the chaos in life, especially when we are not taught better coping skills. Most addition is a combination of genetic factors, past trauma, general physiology and/or underlying mental illness, and current stress level. Spend a moment talking to someone in the throes of an eating disorder who is triggered and affected by the kind of unhealthy content that's becoming so popular on Instagram - complaining about cellulite, round bellies, or fat and flawed body parts when the referenced image shows not just otherwise but the exact opposite -- and you will maybe understand what harm these kinds of accounts can cause. 

I get the insecurity, the need for validation. I know what it's like to worry about weight, food, appearance, body, exercise and to want some kind of reassurance, but if you are an adult and still begging for attention by showing the world how thin you are while complaining about phantom bulges, you should probably consider therapy. What you are seeking can't be found in rah-rah Instagram or facebook comments.

The response to my comment about the harm this kind of content can cause was that my remark was immediately deleted. That's not surprising when it comes to anyone in denial. The threat of potentially addressing, or worse, giving up any harmful behaviors is often too scary for someone in the throes of addiction. The addictive behavior has to be protected at all costs, even if it means losing friends and distancing family members, poor performance, or worsening health. Comments like mine challenge the warped sense of reality of someone with an illness, so they won't be tolerated. There's nothing a stranger can really do at this point. I have no desire to watch someone slowly kill herself. I can't. I actually ended up blocking one account afterward, even though Instagram is public and anyone not logged in can see everything. I've said all I can, though, and there's nothing more I can do. I lived it, so I don't need to watch it. I hope that maybe one day people like this will realize how damaging what they are doing is, not just to themselves but to others. We all have our issues, but there's no need to inflict every neurotic thought onto others, especially if it means negatively influencing someone in the process.

And NOW I'm done.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New Year

I've never been one to make resolutions for the new year. When it comes to running goals, it's easier for me to take things one day at a time than to plan too far ahead, especially lately with my body being so unpredictable. There are a few goals I have, but they are somewhat vague. I'd like to get to the point where I'm in a lot less pain and have more range of motion running. I want to write more, including blog posts, and I am hoping to start a project or two this year. Mostly, though, I want to continue working on being responsible by working hard, keeping up on my volunteer duties and being a mentor to those who are struggling with eating disorders and addiction. In general, it's good to have plan A and several backup plans in place in case A, for whatever reason, suddenly becomes a pipe dream or, worse, something completely unattainable.

I recently updated my Instagram account. I started it back when I was in a writing group, but I never really used it until now. I'm not exactly active on the website and don't get notifications when people leave comments, but I do upload pictures of animals I encounter, mostly at the Humane Society. The link is here: Instagram 

Part of the reason I was so reluctant to become active on Instagram is because there are so many profiles that promote thinness and seem to be run by narcissists. I addressed this before here in regard to one individual who has continued her unhealthy spiral into addiction and vanity. I'm amazed at the number of women who can't seem to resist pulling up their shirts to snap a quick picture of their abs (or ribs) no matter where they are, at the gym, at Target, or outside in a park. Wherever they are, this sudden need they seem to have for everyone to stop and "LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!!" is unhealthy. What's worse are people who cheer on this kind of self-involved behavior.

Encouraging those promoting "thinspiration" is criminal. I will never understand it. I won't even link to pages that are of concern to me because I would never want to call attention to anything so damaging. And just a note that I'm not bitching about people who are bodybuilders who compete or those who take pictures that inadvertently show their abs while engaging in other activities, like running. I'm talking about true egoists whose only goal is to show the world how thin they are. They take a picture or film a video, post it, and then publicly complain about how fat their thighs are, even though it's clear these people are rail thin. That, my friends, is not art or sport or anything other than people feeding addictions and inflicting them onto others. Narcissists usually crave acceptance and are often insecure, and it's easy to tell the difference between someone who is engaged in life and sharing it on social media and someone who is lost in an eating disorder or illness.

Why am I so angry about others when I could just look the other way, free speech and all? Because these people promote an unhealthy trend. Instead of thinking, "How can potentially influence others in a positive way or make changes to better my own life?" these types are perpetuating unhealthy and potentially deadly trends in society. These posts are extremely triggering and have the potential to negatively affect someone who might be in a vulnerable position. When an individual has been confronted by family members, friends, and even strangers, and the response is along the lines of, "I can do what I want!" you know that this person is in denial and has no interest in true self-improvement. I will go a step further and say that these kinds of people don't give a crap about others, or they are so sick and self-absorbed that they're unable to care about anything other than how thin they are, how their abs look in a certain light, and how free from cellulite the back of their thighs are.

I learned a hard but extremely valuable lesson early in my own recovery. I shared the experience in my book, "Training on Empty". There were times I struggled with feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. Adjusting to gaining weight was difficult, and I complained a lot about feeling fat. It wasn't until two of my friends called me out and said, "When you say you feel fat, how do you think that makes us feel?" Until that point, I was still lost in the illness and self-centered enough that I hadn't given much thought about how my words and actions were affecting others. That was an eye-opener, and I knew I needed to change. I needed to be more considerate of others. I needed to understand that I didn't have to burden others with my illness and make them feel bad or question themselves because of my own insecurities.

When I stumble upon IG accounts or other social media accounts that contain images or other triggering content, I always wonder what message these people are trying to send to the world. Chances are, they don't think that far ahead. I get that free speech is a way for people to believe that anything goes and whatever goes is just fine, but I support and respect responsible speech far more. Think before you post.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Recovery on Your Terms

I'm not going to address the obvious myths about eating disorders circulating such as the one that claims eating disorders are limited to white, upper-class, females who are vain or the one that suggests eating disorders are primarily about food addiction. These have been addressed and debunked in countless books, articles and talks. The following are myths or ideas on which I would like to focus:

1. Once you have an eating disorder, you will always have one. This, quite frankly, is bullshit. I know too many people who are fully recovered to believe that a person will always be stuck with the same illness or have the same set of symptoms for her entire life. There's no doubt that there's a genetic component and that people can have a predisposition to developing certain disorders, but this does not mean "once an anorexic, always an anorexic". You may have bouts of distress followed by periods of relief, but once you are on a solid recovery path, you always have the tools to deal with the disorder at your disposal. Sometimes learning to manage an illness leads to living life differently. You don't forget what it's like to suffer with it, but you don't have to actually suffer your entire life.

2. Ed. I already addressed Ed once in a blog post, so I won't go into too much detail here. While I understand the idea that it can be good to separate unhealthy and healthy thoughts by naming or identifying the unhealthy ones, I think this kind of strategy can become problematic when one refuses to accept that the disorder is part of the self, an unhealthy coping mechanism that once served a purpose and can be dangerous if continued. Blaming Ed for risky behaviors but refusing to take any action to change won't lead to improved health. It can help separate the person from the illness, but I stand by my words and say that this is a limiting and gimmicky strategy when it comes to dealing with eating disorders.

3. Eating disorders are a choice. No, they're not. No addiction is a choice, but we all make choices in life that either support or inhibit health. The problem with thinking a disorder is a choice is that you discount the physiology and genetic component of an addiction. The fact that they are not a choice doesn't mean those who suffer have no way of changing or overcoming them. It's more complicated that simply they are or they aren't, just like recovery isn't as simple as making a single choice to get well. You must address all aspects of a person and the disorder in order to successfully overcome addiction. Eating disorders are not a choice, and getting well is not as simple as choosing to eat.

4. Focus on who you were in order to overcome the illness. This is not good advice, because so many people never had a healthy relationship with food, even from a young age. Besides, going back in time is impossible, and why would you really want to? Instead, focus on where you are now and where you want to go. Go as far as describing what you want your life in recovery to look like, and then come up with some steps you can take to get there.

5. One diet fits all. This couldn't be further from the truth. Those who claim everyone can thrive on the same diet aren't considering the different dietary requirements for those with PKU, Hereditary hemochromatosis, Cystic Fibrosis or any number of genetic variations individuals have. Contrary to what some people believe, there is no magical diet for everyone. Anyone who claims that everyone, including all diabetics, does well on a high-carb diet hasn't looked into scholarly, peer-reviewed articles on insulin sensitivity or articles on varied diets in general. It's simply not true that everyone in all areas of the globe should eat the same diet.

Going past the physical requirements of diet, there's no doubt that there are psychological and emotional factors involved with eating. Comfort food is different for each person. Memories and scent are closely tied together, so certain feelings can arise when you smell or even see certain foods, but food can also affect brain chemistry. Again, why we eat what we do isn't as simple as feeding the machine. Food as fuel is fine, but it's better when we can learn to enjoy what we consume.

Speaking of diets, I recently bumped into another gimmicky recovery method called the MinnieMaud. It sounds like the "fuck it; I'm eating" way to better health. Honestly, I don't know a lot about it except that at a glance, it looks like someone compiled a lot of existing advice into a "method" that's easy for others to follow. These kinds of practices have pros and definite cons, so my only suggestion is that anyone who is thinking about doing something like this should check with his or her team and doctor and make sure it's safe to try given his or her situation and current state of health. Remember, refeeding for anorexics and other individuals with certain eating disorders can be dangerous and even deadly in some cases and should be monitored in most cases. Just be careful is all I'm saying. If it works for you, great, but don't push it onto others. Any program like this should be used as a guideline only, not something set in stone.

As far as recovery goes, I don't believe there's a magic formula or perfect method, or that you have to do X, Y and Z to regain health and sanity. There are some obvious changes that have to be made, and I believe there are certain issues that must be addressed in order to recover. Each person, however, will have a unique set of needs and issues to address. The path to health that one takes to achieve well-being need not be the same path someone else takes and probably shouldn't be. For example, some alcoholics believe that AA is the only way a person can get sober, but there are plenty of people who have put years of sobriety under their belts without attending meetings. More importantly, everyone who attends AA will have a different experience and will interpret what is being offered differently. The individual makes of it what he or she will. 

I often refer to this post when it comes to what I feel is essential in recovery. Use what works for you and discard the rest. By using your own approach combined with the guidance of those you respect and trusting that somewhere deep inside you are the answers, chances are you will have lasting success in your recovery.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Quick Update

After three races this fall/winter, I decided it's already too cold for me to really race anymore. My body is feeling all tweaky. I lucked out at my last 5K because the weather was tolerable and warmed up to about 50 degrees by the time the gun went off. Sleeping in no man's land seems to be my thing, but I ran a hair faster than I did at the turkey trot the week before. It was nice to break the 23-minute mark, even though the time I ran is a good five minutes slower than some of my better times. Still, the cold affects my heart valve too much, and I feel uncomfortable running hard in the frosty air. My body feels like it needs a rest anyway. I'm also backing off because my toe is pulling the rest of my body out of alignment again, and I feel twinges that are somewhat worrisome. I had a string of a couple of good weeks, though. I'm glad about that. If I can stay on my feet through the winter, I will be happy.

I don't have any solid plans, and I'm still adjusting to all the weird positions my feet, hips and legs go into when I run. I'd love to be more social when it comes to training, but I'm not quite sure how to go about doing that when I can never predict how my body will respond from one day to the next. For example, the other day after work, my feet started shooting pain again and my left leg went all wonky on me, and shortly after that, I started feeling an uncomfortable tightness on my right side. This has happened before and has also resolved itself, but it's always unsettling. Lately, I'm feeling more pain than I had been in the fall. The only thing I can do is wait and see what happens, but I have to be careful about how I manage things.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Do I Detect Some Fitness in There?

I want to write a very quick race report while it's still fresh in my mind.

Saturday morning, I ran the Panicking Poultry 5K out at the reservoir. It was freezing out! I'm someone who prefers hot to cold, but even those who like the cooler temperatures were looking uncomfortable. I will admit that the cold affects my heart valve leak and drops a dose of anxiety into my system. A few times during the race, I placed my thick wool gloves over my mouth to try to make the air feel warmer and calm myself down. Despite the nerves and the cold, it turned out to be a fun race, and I think I sensed some fitness in me somewhere.

Since I haven't been training for anything in particular, more just getting used to running again, I'm definitely lacking confidence. I'm not sure when and how to push myself in races. That's partly a mental thing and partly a physical one. Making sure I stay within what my wobbly and mechanically challenged body can handle is my top priority right now. I'm doing a pretty good job of running without getting to a point where I am crippled the next day like I have done in the past. Everything is more of a tempo run, but I can still push it on some level. I hope I can eventually push it without worrying so much about this twinge or that ache. The more I work on overall strength, the more I feel like I'm getting there.

I ended up running 23:39, but my chip time was a little bit faster, which is great news to me. I'm oddly very happy about my performance, because after a total of eight (yes eight!) surgeries shared between my two feet in the last bunch of years, there were times I thought I might not even walk again without pain. Neither the pain nor the issues are completely gone, of course, but I'm managing things as well as I can and am thrilled to be able to run at all at this point.

Don't look if you're easily grossed out:

Shortly after the surgery on my right foot

I'm not flipping you off; I just can't bend my toe.

It's not perfect, but they work.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Check Yourself

Lately, I'm amazed how much time passes between the time I think about a blog post and the time I actually write it. Now that I have a few projects completed or close to being complete, I'm going to try to blog a bit more than I have been.

Of course, the election is on my mind, but I'm too shocked to comment much on it at the moment. Besides, Sam harris and a few others did a fine job of expressing a lot of what I was thinking. No need to beat a dead horse.

I hate to admit, but I got caught up in one of those 911 conspiracy theory debates when I shared a video on a friend's timeline on Facebook a few weeks ago. The whole thing got so out of hand, some of us being tagged couldn't find the comment in which we were called out. I ended up backing out of the whole thing and eventually deleted the video when one individual wouldn't stop calling people names, posting links to bogus websites and boasting about his super high IQ, which had to be a joke, because the guy couldn't string together a coherent sentence and seemed to lack the brain power to understand simple equations and concepts. He kept asking the same questions over and over, and just when the issue finally seemed resolved, he would go back to it yet again. No matter how many times I said that metal doesn't have to melt in order for it to become unstable, he couldn't seem to understand. I find it odd that these types are the first to call others stupid. As one friend pointed out, it might just be the Dunning-Kruger effect.

In general, I've been shocked at how venomous people can be, especially lately. I feel like I just wrote about another incident in which a woman was horribly rude, condescending and arrogant in an online forum, and the other day, a friend pointed out an episode on a different forum in which a woman went a bit nuts attacking a guy in a series of bizarre posts that were eventually deleted. I can't decide which event was worse, but the overall tone of all the posters in each case was the same. Instead of a legitimate debate or an honest declaration of goings-on, people who insist on putting others down aim to turn any conversation into a bullying match, which never accomplishes much. I suppose it might make the biggest bully temporarily feel good on some level, but people stop paying attention when things get that out of control. When the scurrilous activity drags out and the same shit get stirred over and over and over again, it becomes increasingly unpleasant and tiresome, really fucking old.

Though this might be somewhat discontinuous, I've noticed my own anger and mixed emotions coming out in the last few weeks, though I try not to take it out on others. In general, I struggle more than usual during the changes of seasons and also in the dead of winter. Even as lovely as the weather has been, I still feel that nagging anxiety and sadness that comes this time of year. For example, yesterday I went to the CU cross country course and had a repeat of my tempo run in 2012, right down to the time, only this year I ran a hair slower and it was a dog encounter that interrupted me instead of an untied shoelace. Overall, the experience was incredibly similar, but the biggest difference was my mood. Yesterday, I was running alone and was very unsure about my capabilities after all the surgeries and soreness I have dealt with. I could feel the worry weighing me down during my warmup run, but I tired to go in thinking I will just see how things go.

When a lady's dog cut me off just after the halfway point, I moved to the other side of the trail, but her other dog followed me and then lunged at me. I yelled a few choice words at nobody in particular and felt slightly embarrassed about it later. Sometimes you have these moments where you're thinking, "Oh shit, I probably could have handled that better," but a small incident like that can unleash a lot of built up tension and the end result is much like the damaging straw on the unfortunate camel's back. I don't like when owners can't or refuse to control their dogs on a trail, especially when there's a dog park RIGHT NEXT to the trail, but I also don't like feeling like I may have overreacted. I've been bitten too many times to take these things lightly, though, and I think the lady realized she was being kind of lax about keeping her dogs in check. 

In the end, I'm glad I managed to get through a solo tempo run at a pace that's not super slow. Given everything, I should be happy, but the competitor in me still struggles. What's funny is that I told myself I would be happy if I ran anything close to 30 min, but when I did, I felt sad that I didn't run closer to 27 min like I have before. Then I listed all the excuses: My toe is about as close to being surgically amputated as it can get. My hips aren't functioning at 100 percent, and my mechanics are a bit out of whack etc. The main problem I had, though, was that I kind of fell asleep halfway through the course and didn't trust that I could go harder. I think I can. 

And on a wonderful but unrelated note, I won some free cheese from Cypress Grove the other day. If you haven't tried their products, you are missing out. The Purple Haze cheese is phenomenal! That was such a cool surprise. I have been a huge fan of their cheeses for a long time. One of my favorites is their Truffle Tremor, but I also like the Lamb Chopper as an everyday cheese. Soooooo good. Mmm

One last thing:
During any uncertain or difficult times, a friend of mine had some very good advice that I will add to here. Be sure you are practicing self-care. Make sure you are eating nourishing food, getting enough sleep and reaching out to friends or others when you need. Look to those who inspire you, and, though the saying is old and used, be the change you want to see in the world.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Rashomon Effect

I started this post a long time ago with good intentions to finish it quickly, but I ended up getting too lost in thought over the weeks to write anything succinct. There were several incidents that kept bombarding my brain as if a tape were on some kind of random but consistent replay cycle. I kept trying to sort out what was worth addressing and what should be let go. Sometimes you really want to open up about certain things, but it doesn't seem appropriate. It might offend someone, or, after starting to address it, it suddenly doesn't seem so pressing. Maybe it falls into the too little, too late category, or maybe you worry about how the person receiving the information might react.

Quite often in life, your experiences or observations in a situation will be different than -- and occasionally the opposite of -- those witnessing the same event. Lately, I have been ear-deep in these kinds of episodes. I'm left scratching my head, thinking, WTF? How can what I think, feel, see, determine or believe clash so violently with someone else's perspective? Often, I'm waiting for a kumbaya moment, and, instead, I'm about to stumble into a war of words, or I'm left out in the cold, alone, looking in and wondering how I landed here.

It does seem that people are exhibiting extreme behavior more now than ever before. I'm either observing smiling, shiny, happy people, or I'm looking at red-in-the-face, road-raging individuals who yell, scream and try to intimidate others. Sometimes, the hostility is nothing more than someone online taking a condescending tone, but, in certain situations, that's enough to put a bad taste in your mouth and a nagging bug in your brain for the rest of the day or longer. There's an undercurrent of anger or unrest, even if the incident comes off as minor on the surface. It's hard for me to understand why people get so nasty, but I'm guessing it's a deeply rooted unhappiness within themselves, not entirely related to what has transpired in the moment.

It has been a while since I have gone into a full-blown rant. There are a few recent incidents I keep tossing around in my mind, though. One has to do with an encounter I had with a woman in an eating disorder forum. Sometimes people just rub you the wrong way. Other times, a person annoys a bunch of people for obvious reasons. Such was the case recently in one of the forums in which I participate. I already posted about it on Facebook, so I won't go into detail here. What came out of it for me is that I'm very happy to have some incredibly supportive friends who are intelligent, kind and funny. This was one of those situations that really bothered me initially, but now that some time has passed, it no longer seems like that big a deal. Some people are unkind and will say mean things, and, unfortunately, everyone has to occasionally deal with these kinds of individuals.

Of course, there are plenty of people who are lovely and sweet, full of kindness and sympathy. They are there when you need and listen to your worries without judging you, and they support you without running to gossip behind your back. The world is full of both good and not so good.

After watching a documentary, actually several, on different types of relationships, I'm starting to understand why I have been drawn to certain individuals and shy away from others. I know I'm vague posting here, but there are some things I haven't figured out how to comfortably share in this kind of medium. What's more important than spilling my guts, is realizing that I have started to see what I have given up by recreating patterns in my life that might be familiar but aren't healthy. Regrettably, I have the sense that I have missed a lot of opportunities, mostly due to fear. I can't really blame anyone else, but none of us live in a vacuum. Interactions with partners, coworkers, family, friends and even strangers can affect our behavior and how we view ourselves.  

This year, I have most definitely lived through a lot of loss and change. Going through big changes always provides an opportunity to reflect on life in general and on the self. The good news is that I now know I don't have to stay on the path I was on.  I want to start living more in the what is or what might be instead of the what was or what might have been, though some of those scenarios are hard to give up completely. Initially, I was feeling pretty shaky about testing out new directions, but I'm OK with being in the unsure stage right now, as long as I know I'm not going backward. In time, I hope some of the walls I have put up will begin to come down. In the meantime, I'm fine working on a new book with several other people, volunteering, working, jogging and continuing to raise awareness about eating disorder recovery and mental heath. 

In October, I will be participating in the Denver NEDA walk. If you would like to help me raise some money and awareness for the cause, please check out this link:  WALK

Also, I was recently a guest on a radio/podcast show "Voices for Change"  Rebecca and Joe were nice enough to interview me about my book and my journey. 

Life is like a radiohead video. It's interesting, bizarre, confusing and disturbing at times, but if you listen to the music, not just the words, it's beautiful in its own twisted way.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Training on Empty: Epilogue

When I first started writing my book, I wasn't a writer. I'm not sure I am now, but I can usually string some coherent and complete sentences together. Sometimes they even come out well, though I'm far from any David Foster Wallace types when it comes to talent and the ability to use it. Still, I had a story to tell, one that I hope will help and inspire others.

During the worst times when I was struggling, there weren't many resources available. The ideas around recovery were very different from what they are now. Good or bad, social media has allowed people to share every aspect of their lives, from illness to recovery, and now you can find a tremendous amount of information online. The problem is that anyone can declare herself an expert or advocate. I noticed someone who previously denied the prevalence of eating disorders and claimed she was immune is suddenly declaring she has the answers. If this approach truly helps others, I suppose there's nothing really wrong with it, but it comes off more as attention seeking than actually wanting to help. On some level, I believe radical change combined with a sudden appreciation and understanding of others or a situation is possible, but I suspect there's more to these kinds of cases.

What's more important to me is that people in the field or those who have actually dealt with an eating disorder share THEIR stories. I don't care so much about the people who have looked with reproach at those struggling or discounted the lows others have hit; I care about the ones who have made it to the other side after facing their worst demons and are willing to reach back and pull someone else to safer ground. These are the true heroes in my mind, not the ones who jump on a topic for the sake of self-promotion.

Recovery is something that evolves. Whether your issue is occasionally binging on pizza and beer or a severe form of restricting, where you are now doesn't mean you will be forever stuck there. As I get older, I realize that I'm no longer aiming to punish myself the way I used to. When I look back at my own life and look at others, some of the things I see have helped the most in recovering from an eating disorder are:

1. Be honest with yourself and with others.

2. Commit to both your recovery and to being as aware as possible.

3. Build lasting friendships and relationships.

4. Focus on the moment and remind yourself that at this given time, you are OK. If you don't feel it, reach out to someone for support.

5. Watch how you talk about yourself and what you say about others. The way we speak about ourselves and others can shed light on some deeper issues.

6. Avoid both blaming others and taking all the blame onto your own shoulders.

7. This post provides a lot of what I feel is helpful information.

In the end, I posted my book in a series of blog posts, because I think doing so can help others. Though it has been many years since I last engaged in any harmful behaviors, I still remember how difficult it was to be in the throes of the illness. I appreciate so much the support from those who have purchased my book and helped spread the word about it, but I want the information to be available to those who maybe can't afford it or are afraid to ask. Posting the book is a way for me to play it forward. I was lucky enough to receive a lot of help when I needed it, and I hope the words I have written will help others.